Love and Marriage among the Achang
In Achang villages, after dusk, young men and women meet to sing. This is the time to get to know possible partners and perhaps to fall in love. These song gatherings sometimes last until dawn. Once a courtship is formalized, it is normal for the lovers to spend a lot of time in the girl's home. When the boy goes to visit the girl, her family retires discreetly, and the two lovers remain together, singing for long periods of time. But they don't maintain sexual relations; if they do, they will be censored and punished.
To have sexual relations before marriage is looked down upon. If there is a pregnancy before marriage, the mother and the child will suffer social discrimination. For this reason many unmarried pregnant women prefer to abort.
Usually the parents arrange the marriage, through the intermediation of a matchmaker. Although they sometimes act in accordance with their son's inclination, the young do not always have the freedom to choose their own partners. The paternal uncle plays an important role in Achang matrimonial relationships, since sometimes a cousin is reserved for his son. On other occasions a marriage is arranged as an exchange between two families, often in order to avoid excessive wedding expenses. Particularly in the past, the bride's parents considered that with their daughter's wedding they had lost a worker, and they demanded considerable gifts.
The wedding is simple, with the couple arriving at dawn at the husband's house.
When two young people fall deeply in love, but their families don't agree on the marriage, they carry out what is referred to as a "marriage by abduction" or "kidnapping marriage". In fact, they flee together, leaving the parents before the accomplished fact. Marriage by abduction serves as an escape valve for unwanted arranged marriages. Once carried out, the "marriage by abduction" is usually accepted by both families, although the gifts that the bridegroom must give are twice the usual quantity.
The Achang practice the transfer of widows. This means that the widow of an older brother will marry a younger one.